important life skills

i learned how to drive stick shift last weekend. {yes, that is said with a ridiculous amount of excitement. i am very proud.} i think it's one of those life skills that everyone should learn at some point, like changing a tire, which i can also do. you never know when those skills will come in handy.

my friends and i were recently talking about this more. so, other necessary life skills {that i may or may not have mastered yet}:

pitch a tent
mow the lawn
read a map
build a fire
make good coffee {yes, it is that important}
balance a checkbook
check the car's oil
cook from scratch
know how to perform CPR
sew or hem, at least
do laundry {i know people who still cannot do this}
iron clothes
replace light bulbs
change a diaper
parallel park
select good produce
basic computer skills
jump start a car
unclogging a sink
use power tools

there are a ton more too but these are just a few i could think of off the top of my head. {wow, so most of these involve cars. hmm.} looks like i have a lot to learn.

{image via 1.gravitysmiles 2.weheartit}

book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

her niece Annie Barrows is a great, light summer read.

I really appreciate the different and original approach to a story of German occupation during WWII. I had never heard anything about the Occupation of the Channel Islands either. Shaffer researched the area and history well to make the story and characters realistic and likable. It's definitely a love story, but Shaffer and Barrows do a great job folding that into an interesting, even if predictable at times, story. I also love that it's written in correspondence form. I can actually picture the characters sitting down at their desks writing. Very refreshing.

When I checked it out from the library, the librarian said many women her age {I'd guess about 50} were borrowing it lately. I can see that. If you're looking for an easy book to read while sitting outside on a sunny afternoon, I definitely recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.


happy long weekend

i'm heading up to my old college town {arguably the best college town in the country}, madison, wisc., for the long weekend. plans so far include watching the madison marathon {watching, definitely not running}, grabbing lunch at my favorite restaurant in madison: mediterranean cafe, sitting on the terrace with friends and a pitcher of spotted cow, memorial day picnics and going to brat fest {yes, brat fest. delicious}. and my "cousin" is back from south carolina for the weekend so it'll be great to see him. such a busy weekend, i'm loving it already!

have a great memorial day weekend!

{image via weheartit}


navigation challenge

you know when you're on vacation in a new city and you don't know your way around and you're nervous you're going to get lost in a bad neighborhood because you have no idea where you're going? i love that.

it's actually my favorite part of any trip {beside time at the airport, which i know is weird but i enjoy}. i really love exploring new cities and enjoy the challenge of finding my way around, especially without gps security. i think it's the only way to really experience a new city. i have a friend that likes to make itineraries for every trip she goes on, but then i think she misses so much character of the city that she can't find on google.

my friend and i drove to the twin cities with no more navigation than "take I-94." the cities were a little confusing at first, but after one weekend, we figured out how to get quite a few places. {there was only one minor mishap. that's bound to happen on any trip though.} it's actually not a difficult area to learn, but we're still proud that we did.

we did the same thing on the subways in new york and boston. it was fantastic. now that we know the are a little better, we have to go back. my friend and i are also talking about taking a trip to san fransisco. i think that may be a little more difficult to navigate though. but i enjoy a good challenge.

twins at target field

i knew i would love target field before i even walked through the gates. i could already see the field. it's truly the most amazing ballpark i've been to {but i've only been to about six so take that as you will}. the park was so open, i loved it. it's just a shame that they've already had to cancel a game for rain. i guess they should have built a roof, but then again, that would ruin the charm of the place. baseball is truly meant to be played outside. also, i don't care if you sat directly behind home plate or thirty rows up in left field, there are no bad seats. sure you're far away, but it's a great view. and the jumbo tron, woah, jumbo.

another observation: if you want to hear some nasty trash talking among fans, don't go to a twins/brewers game. from what i could see, all fans were incredibly friendly. everyone who worked there was also. i must have had a five minute conversation with a lady at the hot dog stand about the park and that was when i was fully decked out in brewers gear. i guesswisconsinites and minnesotans are just nice.

it would have been nicer if the brewers won though.


amazing opportunities on craigslist

i have a friend from college that we used to make fun of all the time because he was constantly searching craigslist.org. {well, we made fun of him for other things too. one time, at a friend's wedding, he was nervous that the good beer was going to run out so he collected every pitcher, wine glass and coffee mug he could find to fill with spotted cow. our table was covered with dozens of cups of beer, just in case. funny twist: they had a second keg in back}

but back to craigslist, this guy was crazy about it. he would peruse the local sites for hours, for everything. once, we had to wait at his house to exchange a canoe for a hunting rifle from someone he met on the site. {not sure how legal that one was.}

he has a job starting in the fall as an accountant so, in the meantime, he needed a job. where did he look? craigslist. and you know what he's doing? sailing the greek islands with a turkish family. what a fantastic summer! {but it's zach, he's had a lot of those. one summer, he sailed from miami to boston, alone. another summer, he sailed with the kennedys.} i'm so jealous.

{image via anatoliansky}


it's geometrically progressive

i was reading a book the other day (the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society) and one line really stuck out to me.
"that's what i really love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. it's geometrically progressive- all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment."
so true. so, so true. there have been so many times when a friend recommended a book or the cover catches my eye and i'm interested. a few pages in, and i already love it and have decided that i will read any other book that is associated with it in some way {topic, author, etc.}. i've also loved a book so much that i decided to read all books written by reviewers on the back cover. i love finding one that i'm excited enough in that i just have to find another to take its place. i can only hope that it's as good as the original.

i haven't read one of those books in a while. how sad. {the last time i got that excited was probably kite runner years ago, but i actually liked a thousand splendid suns more.}

happy friday

the weekend is finally here. thank god.

it took so long i wasn't sure i was going to make it. so now it's time to relax, enjoy the break, sleep in... oh wait, i have to wake up at 4am tomorrow. {so much for sleeping in.} my friends and i are meeting a little after 5am to drive to minnesota for a baseball game {against the brewers}, though we also plan on soaking in all things minnesota. i'm thinking maybe a trip to the mall of america, the zoo, canterbury park race track or maybe a cute restaurant features on diners, drive-ins and dives. i suppose we'll figure that out when we get to it. i'm just hoping for beautiful weather since the twins finally have a real outdoor baseball diamond and not a dome.

tonight, i'm going to try to go to bed early and get a few hours of sleep in before the trip.

happy weekend to all!

{image via weheartit}


a day with the animals

my friends and i are planning a zoo trip soon and i couldn't be happier. i absolutely love the zoo. when i was young, my parents would buy family zoo pass every year to the milwaukee zoo.

we loved spending the day with the animals. we always fought over which animals to see first, though that never mattered because my mom always had a planned route. we would take turns pushing each other in a cart but as soon as we hit the hills, my sisters and i would all jump in and let my dad push {downhill was always the best}. when we got hungry, we'd unpack the amazing lunch my mom made. but for desert my dad always bought us our favorite ice cream treats. i loved sitting by the pond, feeding popcorn to the ducks, always for over an hour {a long time for tykes}. we loved watching the little ducks fight swans for a kernel.

we always stayed a little longer at the favorite exhibits: penguins for my mom, fish for my dad, monkeys for my older sister, tigers for my younger sister and giraffes for me.

dilemma: should i buy a zoo pass for this year? hmm...

fans not felons

have you seen habs fans? wow, they're intense. i mean, don't get me wrong, i am a huge blackhawks fan, and i'd love to see them win the stanley cup, but some people just take sports a little too seriously. {like felony, serious} why would you destroy your own city during a celebration? geez, can you imagine if they make it to the stanley cup series and lose??

maybe it's just the cubs fan in me, but there's always next year.

i get really into games, so much so that i sometimes actually lose myself in it, but at the end of the day, it's just a game and my life with carry on just the same regardless of the outcome. but with that said- i'm a huge blackhawks fan, i root for the bucks, i'm a die hard packer fan, i love the cubs and i bleed badger red and white. {so don't mess with any of my teams.}

i can understand a celebration. hell, i'd go crazy myself. but there's a limit.

i know it YOUR team and YOUR hometown. PRIDE is on the line, but really, relax.

mini-sota road trip

You know how when you’re really excited for the weekend the days just drag on and on. That’s this week.

This weekend, a few friends and I are jumping in a car and heading up to Minneapolis for a baseball game. I’m really excited for the game, but also for the road trip. I’ve been on a few road trips {to South Padre Island, New Orleans, Memphis, Tuscon and New York} and have loved them all! There’s just something about squeezing into a car with five friends that makes the trip. I know to most people, this probably doesn’t sound like a great day. Who would like to be smushed in the backseat of a Ford when you could just fly and make it to your destination in a quarter of the time? ME.

While this is just a mini road trip, we’re still following THE LIST {necessities for the perfect road trip}:

  • iPod playlists or CDs {mostly fast, pump you up music}
  • A loose itinerary {my friend Alyssa was always the best at this}
  • Snacks and lots of drinks {in our case, mostly coffee}
  • Nice weather so you can roll down the windows
  • Good GPS or someone who knows how to read a map {if those people still exist}
  • A roomy car {though not totally necessary}
  • Good pillows
  • A driving buddy to help you stay awake during that 3am shift {or again, more coffee}
  • AND, most importantly, a few good friends :)


{photo via weheartit}


saturdays with farmers

one of my favorite parts of summer is the farmers market. i used to love waking up early on saturday mornings in college. {surprising, huh?} i would grab a cup of coffee and cinnamon roll from a local vendor and wander the capitol square for hours. when i got tired of perusing apples, pesto sauces and gardenias, i'd find a shaded place on the lawn to relax. by far the best farmer'smarket. {and largest producer-only market in the country.}

although, the eastern market in washington, dc came close. i especially loved the arts, crafts and vintage section of the market. i really want to go back to dc and spend more time wandering around the market. maybe someday.

i think i'm going to head to my local farmer's market the next chance i get.


shameless plug

my cousin recently started blogging for the comedy section of the huffington post online. and believe me, he's funny.

"Andy McDonald is a writer and comedian in the greater Chicago land area whose work appears mostly on his awardless sites FiveJokes.com and Zoltrog.com. His writing has also been featured at Second City as well as on Gawker. A former Comedy Central intern, Andy enjoys telling people he was a Comedy Central intern."

check him out.

Learning from Billy Joel

I’m a huge trivia nerd, but you probably know this already. I love learning about news things, about everything really. While I was driving the other day, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” {a collection of headlines through the decades} came on the radio.

I realized this song was the perfect study guide to really learn a few things about the last half-century or so that I may not have read about yet. I admit that I know a lot about some subjects already, such as: Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Stalin, JFK, Martin Luther King; to name a few. But there are a lot more to learn about. I’ve obviously heard about Red China and Walter Winchell, but I’d like to learn more. I haven’t actually set a limit on when this needs to be done, it’s more of just a guide. I like it more that way.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser aand Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy hn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock"

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"

Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, "Ben Hur", space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo

Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

"Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

Who would have thought that you could actually really learn something from a pop tune?

little notes

dear matt. thank you for organizing a tailgate for sixty plus friends. your organization and effort ensured a great night for everyone. we all owe you.

dear friends. i'm glad i could make your night by wearing a brewers ball cap. just don't get used to it, i'm still a cubs fan.

dear madison. years after graduating and moving away, thank you for still making me feel at home. i cherish every moment i spent with you and miss you dearly.

dear spring. thank you for making another appearance. i was beginning to miss you. please stay longer this time. and bring your buddy, summer.

dear prof. downs. i was just reading through my old notes from college and want to thank you for being such an amazing professor. i never laughed so hard or learned as much as i did in your class. and it was probably one of the most difficult classes i’ve ever taken: first amendment law.

{image via weheartit}


Beer + brats + sixty friends = one great tailgate.

My friend Matt, a die-hard Brewers fan, wanted to put together a nice tailgate with friends. He ended up with over 60 tickets and a 15+ car caravan. We took over a huge section of the preferred parking lot next to the sausage house. {Which, if you ever seriously tailgated, you know proximity to the bathrooms is incredibly important.} It was a perfect place to spread out, grill and relax with friends. And the game was also good. Too bad they lost though. {I even wore a Brewers cap... I'm a Cubs fan so this is HUGE.}

The best part of the tail gate? The games. We had ladders, bag toss, beer pong, a giant game of jenga and even a pool table. {I know, right? Pool at a baseball game, crazy.} I didn’t get a chance to play pool though and I regret that, because really, when’s that going to happen again.

{I even ran into friends that were at another tailgate. Great night at Miller Park, but aren’t they all?} Anyway, I’d like to thank Matt again for putting together such an amazing night.


must read book list

My friends and I have been sharing book lists a lot lately. {One is moving to Alaska for a few months and needs a few good books to keep her occupied on those cold nights.}

You know, springtime, it's the best time to read: grab a blanket, chai and sit outside with a good book. I thought I'd share my 'must read' list with you... here are a few books I've read lately that I think everyone should read.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Set in turbulent, violent Afghanistan, it is a beautifully written story and offers a glimpse into a hidden world. While I absolutely loved Hosseini's first book, The Kite Runner, I'd argue that A Thousand Splendid Suns is just as good if not better. Probably better.

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
An amazing account of E Company paratroopers from their landing on the beaches of Normandy through the capture of Hitler's Eagle Nest. I really enjoyed how the story was just as much about the soldiers as the military strategy. The HBO series was also quite fantastic.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
His story is inspirational. It's incredible to think that a man who went to Pakistan simply to climb K2 to honor his sister ended up changing so many lives. His second book, Stones into Schools, is also great.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Another great book by Eugenides {I also loved The Virgin Suicides}. It is an interesting, though-provoking multi-generational story that
is definitely not expected. The voice in the story makes you swear the writer actually lived though these moments.
Great historical commentary. It is a very well-written book and lovely, though uncomfortable at times, story.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I wasn't going to read it at first because it takes place aboard a prohibition-era circus train, but it was absolutely fantastic. The details included were so small but meant a great deal to the story as a whole. And it was a fantastic story. {I talked about this book in an earlier post already.}

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Another book I wasn't interested in reading at first, but then I saw the movie. I usually have a rule against watching the movie before I read the book but I wasn't planning on reading the book so I ignored that rule. It turns out that this is a great story, though I will admit there were parts of the book and movie that I liked more than the other. Check them both out.

The People are the News by Grant Pick
A friend from grad school turned me on to Pick {and Studs Terkel} and I will be forever grateful. Pick, a former Chicago Reader feature writer, is honestly one of the best writers and storytellers that I've ever read. He doesn't glamorize or exaggerate his subjects. He writes honest and incredibly detailed descriptions of every people in Chicago with a voice that leaves you feeling like you may have walked past these people on the street. He once told a journalism student, "There is no news peg. The people are the news."

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Just for fun. It is entertaining collection of essays {as long as you know something about the chapter topics}. I thought the chapter 'Being Zach Morris' was hilarious, mostly because I had a crush on him growing up.

A few others I suggest: Sin the the Second City, Devil in the White City, The Kite Runner, The Reader, The Secret Life of Bees, Reading Lolita in Tehran and, of course, my all time favorite, To Kill a Mocking Bird.



i absolutely love riding the el and people watching. i confess, i like to eavesdrop. i also confess that sometimes i don't get off on my stop just so i can stay on a bit longer to people watch.

i could spend hours at the library just reading everything. if i didn't get such odd looks, i'd probably just lay in the aisle surrounded by stacks of books.

i love learning. about everything and anything. i just love finding out new things, which is probably why i also love trivia games so much.

i carry a vocab list with me at all times: words that i read or heard in conversation and don't know the exact definition. i go home and look them up. it's easier than carrying the dictionary. and nerdy, i know.

{image via flickr}


dear curse words + dirty words

i recently came across an incredibly cute blog: thxthxthx. the writer, leah dieterich, writes one thank you a day. some are funny, some are witty and some are just plain cute. check it out, it's great.


I Love Tailgating

I love sports. I love baseball. I love tailgating.
They go well together.

I'm not one of those fans that is more interested in talking with friends, taking pictures and completely ignoring the game. I think I can juggle all three well.

There's nothing better than enjoying a brat and beer on a Sunday afternoon before taking in a baseball game. I would watch every game from uncomfortable wooden benches with a splinter in my butt if I could tailgate before them.

On Friday, about 20 friends and I are getting together a couple hours before the Brewers game at miller Park. I'm so excited for the brats, beers, games and shenanigans!

And while I am a Cubs fan, I will admit that there is no place better to tailgate for baseball than Miller Park. But I should probably test this theory more. Road trip?

{image via flickr}

happy monday

it's strange, but i'm actually excited that it's monday. maybe because i'm finally feeling better after a weekend in bed with a box of kleenex and cup of tea. or maybe because i have an exciting weekend coming up.

at least before i got sick, i was able to spend the night with great friends. my friend hannah drove up from memphis, complete with a fancy new southern accent, for the weekend. we all met at the water street brewery in delafield for dinner and a hand-crafted home brew. {my favorite is the honey lager light.} it was great to catch up with friends and make future plans that i am really excited about!

i also got to spend time with this cutie.


project update

i'm sad to say that i haven't done a great job keeping up with my 365 day photo project. i took a few weeks off, but i plan to revive it starting now. i have a lot of exciting plans coming up where i'm sure my camera will accompany me.

here are a few recent ones:

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